Gegenschein 69 February 1994


The only reason I've been able to start this fanzine is that I had a break from work between Xmas and New Year, with a delightful ten days off. 1993 was a terrible year for me, with an excessive amount of job related work (mostly administrative detail that doesn't interest me in the slightest) getting in the way of having fun and producing fanzines. Either that work ends at the start of 1994, or I'm out looking for some sane job.

Whichever way that goes, I don't want to overspend on postage for fanzines, because I could use the money for overseas trips. So I'm again cutting the mailing list. Basically, if I don't hear from you within a year, you don't get any issues next year. Since I'm none too good at keeping records, more than one response a year might be helpful, if you really want to stay on the mailing list. Fanzines in trade, letters, email, artwork, anything will count. While I don't want my postage bills sky high (I'd rather do the flying), I also don't want to lose touch with my friends (many of whom have a long history of being lamentable letter writers).

I have to admit that I modified parts of this editorial from a contribution I wrote for the 25th anniversary of ANZAPA, so if you were one of the happy few who received that, tough luck, because I've changed just enough of it to make the contents almost entirely different. Only the bad jokes are the same.*

Travelling Fan

Jean Weber, font of all knowledge, tells me that we resigned from ANZAPA a mere two years ago. It further appears that, although issue 68 of Gegenschein is dated August 1993, it was written mostly by May, and has yet to be copied and mailed. Indeed, many copies of Gegenschein 67 have yet to be mailed. Since Jean is the only one who seems able to find anything in my filing system (otherwise known as the floor), I must perforce believe these incredible dates, although it seems subjectively a lot longer, and that plenty has happened. I just couldn't work out any specific examples of all these happenings, except that we travelled a lot. Sort of like someone finding religion; they are sure something important has changed, but mostly their acquaintances just see them as bible bashing hypocrites.

I thought I could just toss off a few pages about all the interesting travel that dumped on us in the past few years. Jean promptly pointed out that a blank sheet of paper wouldn't qualify as interesting. I thought it probably would be more interesting that anything I could write ... at least you could get Ian Gunn to doodle on it.

Mind you, this uneventful tenor of our lives seems passing strange, as we dropped out of ANZAPA because we didn't have any time. One reason I didn't have time was that after ten years, I finally managed another trip to US conventions for my holidays in 1992 (reported upon in Geg 63, 64 and 66). I was really looking forward to blissful afternoons lazing round the pool, watching all the pretty girls wander by. It was a real pity that I went at Xmas. To recover from frostbite in Minneapolis I manage to visited Florida. Joe Haldeman took me bicycle riding. After treatment for exhaustion, I started to think that perhaps I was getting a little old for that sort of thing. Joe later rubbed salt into my saddle sores by riding 100 miles on his 50th birthday.

In 1993 we travelled to Perth for Swancon, had the DUFF winners Leah and Dick Smith here in Sydney, and made a trip to New Zealand for touristy things plus a convention (reported on in Gegenschein 68). We also managed a trip to Brisbane, and a trip to Melbourne, reported below.

On the cultural high ground, I didn't do so well. In September we visited the Art Gallery to view the surrealism exhibition. I liked works by Rene Magrite, James Gleeson, and also Salvador Dali's Metamorphoses of Narcissus. The rest looked like finger paintings.*

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Brisbane trip

Job interviews are a wonderful excuse for travel. We set out for Brisbane round 8 a.m. on Thursday 16th September, with a (for once) uneventful express bus trip to the city. Ansett bookings were strange, for Jean turned out to have an incorrect return flight when we collected the tickets. Minutes later, on check in, we discovered she also had an incorrect initial flight. Luckily both were soon corrected. In Brisbane, Avis put an incorrect price on their car hire. Again, soon corrected, but one wonders why we have to keep correcting these businesses. Maybe they think we are impressed by how quickly they can fix their stuff ups? Maybe they have lots of experience at fixing things?

Jean's interview at the University of Queensland that afternoon appeared to go well, although in the long run nothing came of it. However the job interview had made a reasonable excuse to spend a weekend visiting Brisbane. I explored the campus for an hour, discovering food sources, the technology shop, the bookshop, and talking with the computer staff at the Mathematics Department. Jean did not emerge from her interview for two hours. And even then, we continued in CITR eating scones and talking.

Fabulous meal at the Coronation Motel, along the Brisbane River, that evening. We both had the barramundi, stuffed with prawns, crabs and bugs. If that were not enough, the chocolate mousse was great, and the death by chocolate mud cake even better. Best of all, you can get it from room service, thus encouraging both laziness and overeating. Since we were staying at the motel for the rest of the weekend, this was a fairly dangerous discovery.

Jean has strange concepts about exploring cities. We drove round every narrow, twisted and warped street within about 10 kilometres of the University, and looked at the outside in innumerable houses. Jean seemed to enjoy it. I'd prefer to treat a map as virtual reality - and once you have seen a map, why bother visiting?

We drove to some strange inland city a hundred or so kilometres out in the countryside, only to find the main drag was closed for some festival. Once there, we perforce drove round and round and round, because you couldn't get there from wherever we had reached. We eventually found a mall that still had a shop or two open at midday, and thus did get some lunch. Thus sustained, we drove round and round and round again, until the ghods tired of their game, and revealed the road out of town. I'm never going to go back to what-its-name in my life! One of the things that impressed me about the USA a decade ago was stores open past midnight; now that it happens in Australia also, I have no interest in hick towns that roll up the sidewalks at midday Saturday.

Adventurous still, we proceeded to the Gold Coast (having discovered a road with appropriate sign posts), filled with visions of the beautiful people to be discovered there. My vision appeared to be a cross between a bikinied meter maid and a Pix cover girl. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Jean looked at houses, and was disappointed. We looked at the high rise skyline, the discos, and the tawdry entertainment clubs, took a walk along the promenade, and promptly left.

We had Mexican food one evening, and Jean praised the corn chips, as being proper tortia chips. Not able to buy them in Sydney, I was able to purchase an entire box of the chips from the restaurant. We shipped them back as part of our airline luggage. And when we finally finished them, we didn't want to eat corn chips for a long, long time. Pity about the distance, when we do want more corn chips.*

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At the instigation of Perry Middlemiss, we attended the second ANZAPACon in Melbourne at the start of October. We had a wonderful time seeing many old (and not so old) friends again. It didn't take a vast amount of persuasion, at least for me, as I wanted a break. ANZAPACon didn't perhaps have the numbers of a Corflu, but I enjoyed it as much as most any convention I've attended in Australia.

Up in time for Ansett flight at 6:15 a.m. to Melbourne, which took off a half hour late. That was not a good time to start. No flights that starts before breakfast is good.

Collected a Budget Ford Laser (a somewhat larger car than we wanted), and dropped our bags with Julian Warner (after flushing him from the loo with our knocking on the door). After some natter, Jean and I drove via Ballarat for a visit with Jan at her antique store in Buninyong (trying to ignore the dead rat under the floor). Neat stuff; I'm really glad I don't collect antiques (except in computers). Then it was back to Ballarat to pry John Newman from his program and drag him off. John looked as if he hadn't been off work for a long, long time, but we persuaded him to relax over a long lunch.

We returned the rental car, despite the Melbourne peak hour. We even managed to locate the evening fannish meeting in one of the arcades back in Melbourne, before Jean went visiting business friends. Julian took the trouble to show me an interesting restaurant for dinner, before we returned home. Julian has a much wider appreciation of wines than I do, and I thoroughly approved the samples he placed before me that evening. Lucy Sussex was just herself returning from an interstate trip, so Jean had relatively little chance to talk with her. We seem to be timing meetings poorly; last time they were at Jean's place, Jean was away.

Next day Jean and I taxied to a serviced apartment near the convention site, and after some adventures obtaining our keys. The convention was a longish walk away, but we later discovered you could arrange to pass interesting shops during the walk.

I hadn't realised there had been so many Australian apas. Ones mentioned in passing. APA-A, which then became ANZAPA. ApaNova - from Nova Mob meetings. Apa 83 - Ain83 bid apa, with Carey Handfield as editor. QBC, son of Apa83, 85 worldcon apa, named by David Grigg. ZAPA, the angry young Melbourne men apa response to ANZAPA moving to Adelaide. Morningstar, role playing apa from Sydney. Applesauce, much overlap with ANZAPA, started in Sydney by Ken Ozanne and run by Keith Curtis, and Peter Toluzzi who provided the first Australian Langden chart. Phantom Zine, Perth comics apa from Larry Dunning, later had fannish fans. APES, Adelaide Publishing and Editing Society, became the pornography apa, then got some strange and unusual material. SAPS, Sydney Amateur Press Society, round 1974. Joy Window's invitational apa round 1980, discussing relationships, ran a few mailings. Centro, Nicki White, started as her fanzine, now a media oriented apa. Magic Pudding, round 1976, each Saturday morning for a few months. Furry Animals apa a few years back. Conglomeration, an apa done for media conventions, mostly James Allen editing. Committee zine for 1975 Worldcon Bid.

Gary Mason produced slides from many early conventions in Adelaide and Melbourne. Some of us were even recognisable. Luckily, I was not one of those most did recognise.

Peter and Elizabeth Darling were there briefly, Sally Yeolands brought John Bangsund on both days. The retired Alan Bray turned up. All unexpected.

The Sharper Image, yuppie executive toy store, was represented on Chappel Street, but I didn't discover it during its opening hours. The fans we asked were not aware of it. Had a rather large Alien costume in the display window, so I'm rather surprised no-one else commented about it. Perhaps they didn't have as lengthy a walk back each evening. I've seen no other example of this store in Australia, which is a real trial for a gadget freak such as myself. Jean wouldn't let me stick round on Monday morning to look through it.

Beyond 2000, near our room, was a much inferior imitation, and I could find nothing there I wanted. Probably just as well.

I was informed that you could buy Jolt (the programmer's cola) at Daimaru. LynC and Clive keep it on hand at home and work, for emergency use.

LynC and Clive visited our serviced apartment on Sunday evening, for send out Mexican from Taco Bell. Food allergies were rampant. Smarties and MandMs (to me almost identical) as mutual allergic agents, as Jean can not handle the peanut binders in MandMs and Lync can't handle the wheat products in Smarties.

Later we visited Stephen Boucher at his nearby home. About the only way to find him seems to be to visit him at home.

All told, I managed to catch up with a remarkably high percentage of the people I had hoped to see, and thus enjoyed myself greatly.*

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Instead of fannish things, I should be concentrating on my career, such as it is (stop that sniggering). However I usually prefer to follow the path of least persistence. Technical jobs being essentially a dead end in terms of money and promotions, my job isn't a career, but I've always preferred playing with gadgets to managing people. If I can keep a straight face for long enough I will write about my job.

I am still working at the University of Technology ... well, to be more accurate, I am employed ... by the School of Mathematical Sciences. This presents a bit of a problem, since I can hardly remember any mathematics - and what I do remember is that I was particularly bad at mathematics. I install gadgets and revive ruined computers. Of course, our computers are so old and such ruins that I could probably make a alternative career as an archeologist. The School thinks I am doing computer support. I don't see personal computers as needing more support than can be provided by a desk. I think I'm a high tech handyman.

Of course, high tech handyman is not what my business card usually says. Since I make my own business cards, I promote myself somewhat - especially when I am visiting computer shows and want some giveaways. I've discovered that salespeople can't afford to act as if they were not gullible, at least at the low end of the giveaway spectrum. When I'm not busy, I tend to enjoy their straight from the shoulder doubletalk about what we should buy.

I should mention that it isn't all work. One of the associate professors put on a sherry party in May. He got up and claimed he had attended one as a post graduate, and always thought it was a good idea. Furthermore, it had only taken him thirty years to get round to arranging one himself. Martin and I were impressed by this idea, so we arranged a party to celebrate our moving the computer systems to a higher plane (well, we carried them up a flight of stairs). This also seemed appreciated by the staff, with a good roll up at the new workshop, and conducted tours of the computer room (a remarkable number of our mathematicians had never seen the computers they use). Apart from liquor, Martin had found a distributor for Jolt cola, so we were able to provide this rare item of programming legend.*

Having Faith

One of our staff asked for help because the personal computer on her desk wasn't working. As we headed for her office, she described the problem, which sounded like it might be as simple as a loose power cord to the monitor (a design feature that never did impress me for its stability). I told her she just didn't treat the computers correctly, and that she had to really believe they would work. She expressed disbelief, and said several cutting things regarding why they had to go wrong just when she was trying to compile a program. I repeated my assurances about having faith and they would work.

We entered her office, and I set one hand on the computer and went into my best Southern Revivalist mode. "Do you have faith!" "Do you believe you are healed?" Concealed by my body, I used my other hand to reseat the errant power cord. The display went back on. For some reason, she still didn't believe, and was highly suspicious until she twigged to what had really happened.

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This year I have been a part time project manager, and full time trouble maker. I'm not sure the School wanted a trouble maker, but as Jean says, you can't have everything (after all, where would you put it?) When I'm being a trouble maker, you can't always successfully get rid of me. The project was the renovation, which was needed so that the School will have a place to put everything and everyone.

Yes, gentle fen, the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) actually gave us some money. Well, when I say 'us', I don't actually mean 'us'. It was Property Development Unit (PDU) that got the bags of money. Our part in all this was to complain (for the past seventeen years - we unearthed an ancient letter as proof) that we didn't have enough space. Finally, sort of like winning consolation prize in the lottery, our turn for renovations came up in 1993.

A whole bunch of other groups within the University had apparently already had a nibble at the money bags (actually, the way I heard the story, it was more like a shark attack, or piranhas in feeding frenzy), but there was still enough (not that we get told figures, you understand) for us to proceed. It was explained that we could not be too ambitious - I put away my photo of the Taj Mahal, and the plans for the spa.

We decided to concentrate our staff on the 15th floor, where they wouldn't be bothered by students. Obviously this would improve the professional and collegiate atmosphere, and provide a chance for peaceful contemplation of research material and the like. The floor is served by only two elevators, and thus wasn't as well suited to student access in any case. I thought this was a good idea, until I learned that I wasn't being invited along to the potentially palatial surroundings.

The student facilities would all be grouped together on the 16th floor, served by six elevators (not a misprint - the building is very strange). We were given an additional two rooms on the 16th floor for computer laboratories, and moved our 15th floor laboratory into one of the newly renovated rooms mid semester. We swapped our two room study centre on the 10th floor for a slightly larger space on the 16th floor, and moved the centre there. Finally, the University took over all classrooms in the building and made them available for general use, rather than reserved for any one school. For us, this involved them building a new 158 seat classroom on the 16th floor, with us having good access to it for our classes. We turned our 70 seat 15th floor classroom over to office space. Our space gain was a total of two large rooms for staff on the 15th floor, and two laboratories on the 16th floor. Not as much as we wanted, but a lot better than what we had.

Money being short, we did the student facilities in the first half of the year, as part of the slum clearance. We knocked down walls and recovered corridor space to enlarge existing rooms and laboratories. Somewhat better power wiring through the old laboratories. Carpets and new paint everywhere. Martin (our Unix guru) and I were expelled from paradise, and thrown into new rooms on the 16th floor, up there with all the grotty students and other trouble makers.

Naturally we were devastated at being turned out of the Garden of Eden, into our new office. We no longer shared a 40 square metre joint office with the staff PC facility, laser printer and seven noisy Unix boxes. Horrors.

We had to make do with a 52 square metre area, including a sealed off ventilated room for our Unix systems, an individual office for Martin, a library area and a 24 square metre workshop for me. We had to put up with newly painted walls, and carpets. We put on a brave face, and allowed that we would somehow cope with this rejection. The additional 50 linear metres of new shelf space also helped a little.*

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Dealing with builders was a whole comedy of errors - and they probably weren't too happy with us. Most things went fairly well, although neither the architect nor PDU ever really seemed to feel as deeply as us about our concern about security, a topic which often seemed a total afterthought.

There was the computer room alarm the specialist security company installed (by mistake). We discovered it was wired so that it only worked when our door was closed. If you managed to open the door, the alarm turned off. That was impressive, and a really useful design feature. I bet they sell a lot of them - once!

Then there were the PC laboratory doors. These double doors were set to butt together, without a rebate. As a result, any clown with a kitchen knife could unlock them. I complained, and protested, and was repeatedly ignored. During the final inspection, I attacked them with a kitchen knife in front of the assembled multitude of architects and officials. I got lucky, and they swung open within about five seconds. The doors rapidly went on the list of things to be fixed - just like I'd been asking for the past three months. Dark muttering were heard regarding who was that masked clown with the kitchen knife. Dark mutterings were heard from me about people with soundproof heads; can't tell them anything.

My own approach to security is rough and relatively cheap. I brand expensive equipment with a branding iron. I like clamping the laboratory computers to their desk, as it reduces temptation. Takes a couple of months to get the metal clamps built by the workshop, so you have to order them well ahead of need. Stainless steel wire through the manuals tends to help them stick round also, and I have a nice swagging tool for crimping the stuff on. I also like putting a steel mesh grill behind the aluminium air vent on doors to laboratories. I asked for such mesh behind every door. By the end of the year, I had precisely one new security grill, on the school office. Impressive. Someone was really rusting on their laurels on security. I'm not sure who that was; it was easier to detest them incognito.

Meanwhile, we had two computers, a monitor and a keyboard stolen during the year. What was particularly annoying is that we later discovered that renovations on several other floors had included elaborate electric locks, keypad entry, and alarm systems, while we were offered sweet fuck all. I finally rescued some flat sheet steel, and some old security grills, and added them to those of the laboratories and computer rooms that they would fit. They look ugly, but it is better than nothing, and nothing looks remarkably like what we are getting.*


Had a lot of trouble getting locks changed in a timely manner in the early stages of the renovation. I put in one lock change order for a computer laboratory on 3rd February, and found the lock was eventually changed on 3rd March. Since we didn't have a key for the month, I wasn't terribly impressed.

We never did get additional keys for the study centre locks. This lock was rescued from somewhere and installed by the builder, and we never did identify where it came from, so there was an excuse. There were several other items that took weeks to obtain. It seems the lock situation was that they would put off till tomorrow everything they had already put off until today.

I came away from the lock situation with the impression that those responsible were suffering mental languish. Nothing was impossible, as long as those in charge didn't have to do it themselves. I had the distinct impression that, while they had heard hard work never killed anyone, they were taking no chances on being the first victim. I didn't know what made them tick, but I really hoped it was a time bomb. Now, this might well be unfair, in that I suspect that several faculties were able to jump the queue and get priority treatment.

Unfortunately, as part of our multi-stage moves, we would be moving staff with as little as a few hours notice, whenever rooms were completed. We naturally wanted the locks changed at the same time. I couldn't think what I'd do without the University lock service, but I'd rather. I stupidly decided the only solution was to do it myself.

Do you know you can get the MIT Locks Guide through the Internet? Not to mention some nice plans for lock picking tools. While I never got all that good at changing locks, on ones that don't give problem, I can have the cylinder out and changed in about thirty seconds. Mind you, the ones that do give trouble can take hours.*

Second Stage

Having successfully acted as liaison with the builder during the first half of the year for the entire 16th floor renovation, without having more than minor problems, I foolishly deluded myself into believing I could do the same for the 15th floor renovation. My much brighter (and certainly more cynical) colleague Martin told me that now we had our domain, I should avoid getting involved. My belief was, if not me, then who?

Martin was right.

I was right also; I don't know who else would have done it.

PDU had provided four rooms for the five staff moved out of the 16th floor renovation. They kept telling me they had plenty of nearby space for staff from the 15th floor, but didn't provide room numbers. Since we had nearly 30 staff and no empty rooms in which to put them, the architect planned on doing our renovation in five stages, and I needed rooms to plan how to move the staff round. When I finally persuaded PDU to assign the room numbers, I discovered four were ones already occupied by our staff, one was only available for the first week of construction (each stage would take six weeks, assuming no problems), and the other two were unsuitable for lecturers. My experience in the first half of the year meant that this did not come as a total surprise. Instead of taking the bull by the horns, they shoot it.

My long planned fallback was to take over the rooms of the three staff on leave, so I'd also asked for storage space in the basement. When I tried to take over the room assigned us, I found it was in use. Things were off to a great start. I had the impression some of the people finding rooms had majored in alibiology.

Builders are selected by tender, and it appeared that any builder with experience in our inaccessible 30 floor tower tendered higher on subsequent bids. Our new builder had never previously constructed anything in our tower. But they were the low bidder ... and the money would (we heard on the grapevine) run out somewhat before construction could be completed, so it seemed the architect and PDU were more than usually anxious not to have any cost increases. Some of the compromises did show somewhat at the seams - and many other places.

The contract called for a foreman on site at all times, and a personable young builder duly turned up. One day, when talking with him about problems with various sub-contractors, he mentioned that he was sub-contracted to be foreman. The company with the contract didn't actually have anything on site; they just sent a supervisor along to meetings once every two weeks. No, not entirely true. They also sent along a sign with their name on it.

Take the lights - please. Our staff offices needed double light fittings. These were to be salvaged from the demolished zone. Unfortunately, the lights were needed in the first few areas, but the areas to be demolished were towards the last stages to be done.

The same thing happened with some salvaged doors. We needed eight for the first stage of construction. Five of these doors had to come from the area to be done in the third stage. But staff couldn't move out of the third stage until the first stage was complete, and you can't complete it without the doors. I just love it when a plan opens and shuts properly.

Our new walls reached the ceiling, and ran straight across the light fittings. We had to argue that this wasn't all that great for keeping down noise, and really didn't look appropriate in some rooms. What is more, it makes it real hard to change the tubes! Arguing worked for the rooms for the Head of School and for a few others, but there remain a vast number of rooms in which the walls block all access to some of the lights!

The new feed pipes for the fire sprinkler system run under the lights - thus making it impossible to remove the light fittings for replacing tubes. I said several pointed things full of words like "unacceptable" and "school, not a factory." They eventually moved the pipes to the other side of a wall, where they would be under a false ceiling.


Thus I spent my days, until the end of 1993. But it is finally over!*

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Book Reviews

Once again, we have a lot of books to skim, due to the much larger than anticipated gap between issues, so I'll get straight into it. Note that I do "buyer's guide" reviews, not literary criticism. I seek out science fiction, and particularly hard science fiction. I believe fantasy, horror, vampires and the like appeal mostly to technophobes unable to cope with technological change, so don't expect much in the way of reviews of anything but science fiction.*

Adams, Douglas, Mostly Harmless

Pan, Nov 1993, 219pp, A$10.95

"The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy." You have listened to the prequels on the radio, seen it on TV, and played the computer game, now read the book. Meet strange cult figures, learn why computers include Don't Panic radio buttons, and much, much less.

Asimov, writing as Paul French, Lucky Starr book 2

Bantam Spectra, Sept 1993 (US May), 307pp, A$10.95 US$4.99

Contains Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus and Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury. These stories show their date (1954 and 1956) and their heritage. They are very much intended for uncritical children, being exceedingly pulpish in plot and character. Not of use for anyone with a reading age over primary school (or reading skills greater than required for most evening newspapers).

Asimov, writing as Paul French, Lucky Starr book 3

Bantam Spectra, Oct 1993 (US June), 306pp, A$10.95 US$4.99

Contains Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter and Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn. Another set of the juveniles that Asimov produced (and wisely did not sign) from 1957 and 1958. For completists and as stocking fillers only.*

Baxter, Stephen, *

ROC, May 1993, 304pp, US$4.99

A band of rebels leap 1500 years back in time to prevent alien invaders who have already conquered the Solar System. Told mostly from the point of view of a quisling governor. Lots of plot twists, some philosophical, but none that I really cared about.

Bujold, Lois McMaster, The Vor Game

Pan, Dec 1993, 345pp, A$12.95

Miles Vorkosigan story, set just after he graduates and has his first official assignment. Set after The Warrior's Apprentice. These Miles stories are not really what I would call science fiction, as they could take place in any balkanised area with lots of political action. I believe their appeal comes primarily because Miles is physically weak, but prevails in the plot due to thinking faster and more clearly than his opponents. Well written stories that do not require the protagonist to be nasty enough to bash or kill opponents have my enthusiastic approval.

de Lint, Charles, The Little Country

Pan trade paper, Nov 1993, 630pp, A$19.95

Massive contemporary fantasy, set in Cornwall, replete with music, from a talented author. Unusual.

de Lint, Charles, Yarrow

Pan, Nov 1993, 244pp, A$11.95

Reprint of the 1986 Ace edition. Gnomes, ancient tales from a harper, and a thief of dreams.*

Douglas, L Warren, Bright Islands in a Dark Sea

Ballantine Del Rey Discovery, July 1993, 313pp, US$4.50 A$9.95

A peaceful archaelogist flees the Pharos church persecution when he accidently discovers that the alien Ferosin invaders still rule a backwards earth. Can he find and join the remnants of the starship pilots who may have the knowledge to defeat the entrenched invaders. Good action, bit of a pity about the logic of the plot, but not bad for a first novel.

Gentle, Mary, Grunts

Corgi, Dec 1993, 480pp, A$12.95

A fantasy with attitude. This one shouldn't work. A bunch of orcs (the bad guys) get infected (the way a virus infects you) by Marine esprit de corp, despite being on the side of darkness. Sends up every fantasy I know, and every cliche of the genre. I loved the thing, although it isn't always what one could call subtle.

Greenberg, Martin editor, Further Adventures of Wonder Woman

Bantam Spectra, Dec 1993, 337pp, A$9.95

Eight stories, some by well known authors. Better quality than I expected, but definitely intended for the comic fans.

Haining, Peter, Great Irish Stories of the Supernatural

Pan, Dec 1993, A$14.95

Twenty eight stories, in six categories. Ghosts, hauntings, faerie, leprechauns, devilry, revenants.

Harrison, Harry and Marvin Minsky, The Turing Option

ROC, 1993, 498pp, E4.99 A$12.95

Near future thriller. A well organised team steal the first AI ever created, and get away clean, apparently killing everyone in their way. However Brian Delaney isn't totally dead; the bullet only destroyed part of his brain. New surgical techniques, and a computer interface in his head, gradually let him recover some of the techniques he invented to make the AI. Will the killers get to him first? Will he rediscover how to make an AI? What will an AI do when it does exist?

For a novel, this contains a hell of a lot of (not totally convincing) natter about how to actually produce an AI. Interesting, especially for those who want to absorb their (pseudo) science from fiction. I feel I should admit that it almost certainly isn't intended to read as pseudo-science, and I may be totally incorrect in grouping AI along with astrology and psychoanalysis.

Hogan, James P, Out of Time

Bantam Spectra, Dec 1993, 117pp, US$3.99

Very, very slight detective tale, of time being stolen, concluded with a totally unconvincing deus-ex-machina solution. I should have given this a miss.

Luceno, James, The Big Empty

Ballentine Del Rey, Dec 1993, 291pp, US$4.99

Spirituality keeping AI machines in servitude (with some minor problems when you need them to go to war), war and politics, cyber enhanced soldiers with problems relating to machines, and diverse races of humanity. Fast paced cybertech war novel, set well in the future.

McAleer, Neil, Odyssey The Authorised Biography of Arthur C Clarke

Gollancz, 1993, 430pp, E5.99

Detailed account of the life and achievements of one of the major figures in science fiction, and the popular promotion of the merits of space exploration. Covers up to 1992, and includes a detailed list of references and a decent 12 page three column index. Pretty fine print throughout, so reading it does take some time. I found it an interesting and valuable addition to my sf library.

McCaffrey, Anne, Crystal Line

Corgi, Jan 1994, 349pp, A$11.95

Another Crystal Singer novel, probably number three. Fine if you like McCaffrey's style of tale.

McGrath, Patrick and Bradford Morrow, The Picador Book of The New Gothic

Picador, Dec 1993, 336pp, A$16.95

Twenty one stories of contemporary Gothic and macabre fiction, not to my taste, but some well known authors. I must question however why UK paperbacks seem to come out on such godawful paper.*

Norton, Andre, Wheel of Stars

Tor, Oct 1984 (Aust June 1993), 318pp, US$3.99 A$9.95

Fairly standard Norton fantasy adventure. Well written, as always.

Pohl, Frederik, Mining the Oort

Ballantine Del Rey, July 1993, 279pp, US$4.99

Realistic novel of a not too distant space frontier, in which comets from the Oort were expected to produce the water to create a green Mars. Young Martian Dekker DeWoe finds it hard to obtain the training he needs when he finally gets to Earth, and then learns there are many dangerous political and technical implications in keeping the project in existence. Pohl always writes fine, human scale novels, while keeping possible technology firmly in mind.

Pratchett, Terry, The Colour of Magic

Corgi trade, UK6.99 A$19.95?

The graphic novel, illustrated by Steven Ross, adapted by Scott Rockwell, lettered by Vickie Williams, edited by David Campiti. Colour throughout, and a reasonable adaption generally. The major problem is the richness and humour of Pratchett's prose is not all that well suited to being reduced to comic format.*

*Pratchett, Terry, The Light Fantastic

Corgi trade, UK7.99 A$19.95

The graphic novel, illustrated by Steven Ross and Joe Bennet, adapted by Scott Rockwell, lettered by Michelle Beck and Vickie Williams, edited by David Campiti. Colour throughout, and as before, a reasonable adaption generally. About 120 pages in each of these. My advice has to be to read the original, rather than the comic.

Pratchett, Terry, Lords and Ladies

Corgi, Feb 1994, 382pp, A$10.95

The author reports that he grows carnivorous plants and thinks the world needs more orang-utans. Speaking of which, the orang-utan is back in his rightful place as the librarian (a spell got loose in a previous story). Granny Weatherwax and her coven of witches are back. I'm not sure why the Morris Dancers are in here. Since this Discworld novel is a sequel to Witches Abroad, it does help to have read some of the other novels. Comic fantasy (emphasis on comedy, in a very British style). I really enjoy them (but you have to remember that Transworld have been good enough to send me review copies of pretty much all of Terry Pratchett's novels, and the true test is whether I'd buy them for myself).

Pratchett, Terry, Only You Can Save Mankind

Corgi, Dec 1993, 173pp, A$7.95

A serious humorous juvenile instructional novel. Johnny wanted to play the computer game, but the alien invaders had surrendered to him, and wanted him to help them get home safely. Unfortunately, other players still wanted to wipe out the invaders. A nice counter to the myriad mindless (but good for the co-ordination) blow 'em up computer games.

Rankin, Robert, The Sprouts of Wrath

Corgi, Jan 1994, 286pp, A$10.95

Fourth novel in the increasingly unreadable and incomprehensible Brentford Trilogy. I loathed the ones I did read, and didn't read this.

Rawn, Melanie, Skybowl

Pan, Dec 1993, 672pp, A$12.95

Dragon Star, book three. More fantasy with knights and flying dragons, and wars and princes, and the usual crap. At least this time the trilogy concludes with book three.*

*Sheffield, Charles, Dancing With Myself

Baen, Sept 1993, 366pp, US$4.99

Interesting mixture of eleven sf stories and five factual scientific articles. Sheffield often seems a more consistent and reliable writer in short stories than in some of his novels, where the characters have sometimes rung false. Stories where `idea' is more important than character always hold more appeal for me, so I tend to prefer short stories in any case. I almost always enjoy Sheffield's writing, whether fact or fiction, so I recommend it, especially to hard sf fans.

Sterling, Bruce, The Hacker Crackdown

Bantam, Dec 1993, 316pp, US$5.99

Subtitled Law and disorder on the electronic frontier, and that is what it covers, in four parts. An historical overview of the telephone system, and its modern transition to a computer network, how that works (in outline), and how vulnerable it is as a consequence. The underground phone phreaks, with their various antique colour boxes for making free phone calls. This section also covers computer crackers, plus the bulletin boards that support them, and their antics when they break into a system. How law and order have seen these groups, and the reactions and over-reactions that have happened. Much of these pointing to a lack of knowledge on the part of those into control of systems. The final section covers the reaction from civil libertarians, and the threat to general liberties from trying for too much control of anti-social actions of a few. A generally sympathetic and apparently well informed account of what has been happening over the past decade. Much better than most journalistic exposes.

As a personal note, computer crackers and virus creators can be a real pain, however the general solution is technical, not legislative. It is possible (albeit inconvenient) to create system that are essentially both exceedingly difficult to crack and not susceptible to virus attack. The big gotcha is that you can't do so using present systems, and would have to abandon them. The crap presently oversold to an ill informed public as personal computer operating systems are simply too brain dead to handle it. It won't happen, but it certainly can be done.

Turner, George, The Destiny Makers

Avon, Feb 1994 (Nov 1993), 321pp, US$4.99 A$10.95

Perhaps our most thoughtful and literate writer.

Vinge, Joan D, Catspaw

Pan, Oct 1993, 454pp, A$11.95

The Warner books US version came out in 1988, and I kept feeling I have read this before under a different title. Despised telepath is hired to keep a corporate owner alive when assasination is likely, however this covers several plots within plots. Detective story as much as a SF one. Not badly written, but a little long for my taste and for the slightness of the plot. Even good writing can't always solve that sort of problem.

Weber, David, The Armageddon Inheritance

Baen, Dec 1993, 344pp, US$4.99

Sequel to Mutineer's Moon, in which protagonist Colin Macintyre finds that the moon is actually a warp capable self aware starship, that the human race are descendants of the crew, and that the mutineers are still alive, partly control the human race, and are still attempting to take over the ship. Having solved that problem, Colin now merely has to defend the earth (and the entire nearby corner of the galaxy) against an ancient enemy dedicated to wiping out life wherever it is discovered. An enemy that, moreover, may well have defeated the empire that created the starship some 50,000 years ago. An enemy ancient enough to have killed off the dinosaurs. Grand military adventure sf.

Williams, Walter Jon, Aristoi

Tor, Sept 1993, 448pp, A$4.99

Science fiction the way it should be done. The Aristoi are the technological and artistic elite of humanity. Few have the innate capacity, nor the will, to survive the multiple integrated personalities needed to be acknowledged as an Aristoi. They plan and terraform Realised Worlds for their worshipful people, for whom they are the equivalent of gods. They interact with their peers in the virtual reality of the Oneirochronon, where they vie for prestige via their artistic imaginings and creations.

Gabriel, a relatively new and minor Aristoi, with only a century or so of experience, makes the dangerous discovery that, somewhere, an Aristoi has gone mad, and is intent on taking over the entire human race. The unknown Aristoi is obviously both subtle and powerful, and can not be found, nor even opposed directly.

A wonderfully believable advanced society, a grand adventure, fine philosophical speculations, and excellent conversations.**

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Carolyn Doyle and Dave Rowe

8288 W Shelby Road 44 Franklin IN 46131-9211 USA 20 Mar 1993

Would you believe Woody Guthrie pubbed a fanzine? He was the fellow who wrote The Land Is Your Land and about 10,000 other folk songs. I'm reading a collection of his writings Pastures of Plenty and there is one from The Railroaders' Cannon Ball Gazette which was "an occasional mimeographed newsletter" in which he wrote about living in New York during '42. It's not a SF fnz of course but never the less it is a fnz.

Buck Coulson

2677W-500N Hartford City, IN 47348 USA 17 Feb 1993

Unfortunately, modern artists run into the problems of expenses, which the pyramid builders didn't. I thought of this because a week and a half ago we were at Confabulation, in Bedford, IN, at the Stonehenge Motel. I assume it was named because this promoter decided to put Bedford's limestone quarries on the map by building half-scale (I think) replicas of ancient monuments; the pyramids, Stonehenge, and so on. Unfortunately he went broke before he got anything done, so the Stonehenge Motel is near this pile of limestone rubble instead of a Stonehenge replica.

Lloyd Pennay

412-4 Lisa Street Brampton ON Canada L6T 4B6 31 Jan 1993

Marvellous stories from John Berry ... in this politically correct and humourless age, such pranks might even land you in court. At least back then, there wasn't the instant assumption that others wanted to harm you by pulling these stunts.

Brad Westervelt

544 Debbie Court Boulder Creek CA 95006 USA 18 Feb 1993

This may sound silly to you, but I thought I should mention to you that I am an avid collector and thrower of boomerangs. I compete at the USBA competitions, though I am not good enough to ever have been selected for international team competitions. It is a great sport, and its participants are fantastic people (though all are a little bit ... bent [pun intended]). The upshoot of all this is, should you happen to run across any authentic booms or nice throwing sticks, I'd happily purchase them. Not tourist junk, souvenir booms, mind you. I understand that these are plentiful in Oz.

Ron Solomon

1014 Concord Street Framingham MA 01701 USA 27 Feb 1993

... good luck to you (all) regarding an Australian Worldcon bid in '99.

I enjoyed the John Berry contrib much. The nearest I got to such High Drama was working at the local regional daily newspaper, where I never saw such hilarity, only serious Work in the darkroom.

I can tell you are an old-time fan, going to bed at 4. I was bemoaning the conservative nature of current congoers and conventions, where things lock up relatively early, compared to the Old Days (read: '80's). I am so glad I got to see the sunrise over the beach at Brighton (England) back in '84 for the Eastercon I was shanghaied to.

Do I remember correctly that the Australian dollar used to be worth more than the American flavour? {{In 1972 I got US$1.48 for an Oz dollar - I wish I could get even half that now. EL}}

William Rotsler

17909 Lull Street Reseda CA 91335 USA

Is it your policy NOT to have artwork? Or do you not have any? I enclose some. Pass on what you don't want, need or can't stand.

Re me drawing plates at Corflu. I love to do it, and it's the only time I've ever repeated a drawing. (Oh, I do variations on a theme ...) Which is on upside down coffee cups - I either do Van Gogh (the handle is the remaining ear) or the handle is a guy sucking his own nose. (Both are in the photo in Gegenschein 66) I've done maybe four or five of each.

While I use these great Vis-a-Vis felt tip pens, which can draw on about anything, because of the glazed surface it comes right off. If you have one and want to preserve the drawing, use a common artist's fixative spray, holding a way back so that the droplets pretty much dry en route. Build up a surface slowly.

Ruth Berman

2809 Drew Avenue South Minneapolis MN 55416 USA 18 Mar 1993

I enjoyed John Berry's comments about photographers. I think I'll have to make a copy to send to another niece who's married to one.

Joe and Gay Haldeman

5412 NW 14th Ave Gainesville FL 32605-4414 USA 8 Mar 1993

Joe finished his novel 1968 back in January

Parris McBride

102 San Salvador Santa Fe, NM 87501 USA 4 Feb 1993

George (R R Martin) has spent most of the last year developing a TV series idea for Columbia Studios/ABC Network. It's called Doorways. It's an alternate time line story with the two main character - Tom and Cat skipping across Earths meeting the natives and running from Evil Dark Lords who are pissed at Cat. The pilot is complete, with all the acting, editing, sound effects, SFH, looping and credits done.

CBS had an interesting show - Space Rangers - that they shot a pilot and six episodes for. I kinda liked it, better than Deep Space Nine, but that doesn't take much really, does it?

I'm not really up on the ins-and-outs of Aussie fandom, so am hesitant to comment on the possibility or viability of a '99 bid. I do know that you folks showed us the best of times - and the report you gave of the royal treatment the Haldemans recently received - confirm that though you may be small in numbers, Aussie fandom does have a tradition of hospitality and friendliness that stands up to any other group of fans that I have been lucky enough to know.

George and I often talk about our trip to Australia, and he dreams of the time when we can have a Murray River Con. He envisions a pod of houseboats, floating merrily down the Murray with a separate bar boat and barges for panels. We'll sing along to "Ripple" and wave at the crocs - there are crocs on the Murray, aren't there? - it's be grand. So, Eric, do you want the party boat, or the quiet old geezer boat?

While Walter Jon may have a clear memory of the road trip to ChiCon '82, I have a clear memory that we did not do any amyl nitrate that night out on my farm in Tijeras. My reaction to that stuff is that it makes me fall down. Had to stop going to gay bars to dance back in the '70's because damn fools were shoving poppers under my nose out on the dance floor, I'd inhale it, and then fall down.

Therefore I empathize with your tobacco allergies. As a failed reformed smoker, I'm more on the side of the non-smokers, even when I have a cigarette in my hand. I do think that as long as it's legal to use tobacco some accommodations must be made, but I don't know how to sort that out.

Rachel McGrath-Kerr

20/65-66 Park Ave Kingswood NSW 2747 1 Sept 1993

The Western Sydney Science Fiction Society is still active. In fact, we've recently been the focus of study by a friend. As part of her degree, she is required to observe a group (of any sort) in action, its meetings, activities, etc.

Her lecturer was astonished to find that we don't have one specific leader or an agenda, and suggested that she take control of the group and get it organised. She disagreed - the system (as such) is working well and if it ain't broke, then don't fix it.

Patricia McKinlay

15 Barker St Ipswich QLD 4305

Music Downgrade really hit the spot. What makes me particularly appreciative is that I recently bought a VHS video. I also have an 8 year old Beta video with new recording heads. Guess which machine records off air more clearly? Guess which has cleaner copies if I'm copying stuff?

Pamela Boel

4 Westfield Way, Charlton Heights Wantage, Oxon OX12 7EW UK 15 Sept 1993

On the couple of days that we have been out on the boat I tried catching supper. There are some quite decent sized trout thriving in the upper reaches of the Thames. So far it is fish two, Pamela nil. Twice I have lost my bait and hook but I haven't caught so much as a tiddler yet alone a fish for supper.

Oh dear, some people just are not meant to be DIY masters in their own homes. Odd isn't it? Many of the things you do with computers must involve hours of patient and delicate work, yet when you are faced with a simpler less delicate task you become impatient and make too much grouting in a doomed effort to speed up the task. Congratulations on your skylights. I have long been of the opinion that good natural lighting is of great benefit to health and emotional well being.

Michael Hailstone

14 Bolden Street Heidelberg Vic 3084 9 July 1993

... one cannot deny the steady insidious westernisation of the world. You think it's a "bit of a pity"? as far as I'm concerned, a world where western capitalism and culture have utterly triumphed is a world just not worth living in. {{But you will have no choice. EL}}

R Laurraine Tutihasi

5876 Bowcroft St #4 Los Angeles Ca 90016-4910 USA 4 June 1993

In April, I joined Compuserve. My membership number is 71613,1227. You may send Internet mail to me at 71613.1227 at compuserve com. I received a birthday greeting from Kees van Toorn, who is apparently also on the system. Small world.

I enjoyed reading your trip report very much, despite Geri Sullivan's incriminating photos. I'm glad to know you are the Australian agent for Niagara Falls in 1998. I am supporting the bid and hope they win. It would be nice to visit that part of the country again. Speaking of agents ... there is no mention of an American agent [for Ain99]. {{The agents are Leah and Dick Smith. EL}}

Australia in 1999 publicity

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All art this issue is by William Rotsler

I am Australian agent for Niagara Falls in 1998

Australia in 1999 Aussiecon 3 * A personal journal and science fiction fanzine * Written and published by Eric Lindsay

Gegenschein is published when I have enough material and time to do an issue.

Comments should be sent to: Eric Lindsay, 7 Nicoll Avenue, Ryde, NSW 2112 Australia. [Obsolete]

Telephone: BH, Mon-Thu (02) 330 2254 (Uni Technology, Sydney), AH, Thu and all day Fri, Sat, Sun, (Insulting messages on answering machine at) (047) 51 2258 [Obsolete]

Electronic Mail: eric at [Obsolete]zen maths uts edu au ISSN #0310-9968 Ask Jean about trades, since she keeps the mailing lists.

Copyright * 1994. All rights returned to the contributors upon publication.

Andy Porter's Hugo winning Science Fiction Chronicle is a monthly newsmagazine, essential reading for those interested in the USA and UK SF and fantasy fields.